Sunday 25 September 2016

John Mullane: Only the one winner once Cats created street brawl

John Mullane

Published 07/09/2015 | 02:30

Johnny Coen’s high tackle on Colin Fennelly of Kilkenny should have ended in red for the Galway defender
Johnny Coen’s high tackle on Colin Fennelly of Kilkenny should have ended in red for the Galway defender

Although we wonder almost every year now what constitutes the sweetest one of all for Brian Cody, surely this must rank right up there.

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Consider the retirements that Kilkenny suffered after 2014 - David Herity, Brian Hogan, Tommy Walsh, JJ Delaney, Aidan Fogarty and Henry Shefflin. A stellar cast and throw into the mix that they went into battle yesterday without Richie Power from the start and Jackie Tyrrell too.

Emerging as All-Ireland champions against that backdrop is a quite remarkable feat.

Joey Holden's played in an All-Ireland final before but this was his first one at full-back. On his left shoulder, Shane Prendergast collected his first Celtic Cross at 29 years of age.

Kilkenny's strength in depth might have been stretched to the limit but, incredibly, they won this All-Ireland with relative ease.

Comfortable

They were just so comfortable throughout the summer, it really was plain sailing all the way to September.

Cody pinpoints that third quarter, the 'moving quarter' as it's known in other sports. It was a critical period again yesterday as Kilkenny emerged from their dressing room for the second half with ravenous intent.

They had quickly reeled in Galway by swarming the middle third of the field. Galway had 0-14 on the board by half-time but in the entire second half, they managed just 1-4.

Two of those points were scored by David Collins from the half-back line and the goal was a consolation strike in stoppage time.

During the second half, Joe Canning should have been out around the half-forward line for Galway.

He was stuck in at full-forward and effectively having no influence on the game.

A player like Joe Canning has to be involved in the game and on the ball.

I'm not sure what the Galway tactic was and whether or not Joe was under specific instruction to remain inside but he must surely have thought about making the move himself. His station on the edge of the square was a major influence on Kilkenny winning, and Galway losing.

In that third quarter, Joe wasn't getting on the ball and there was little going into him because Kilkenny had pulled the shutters down.

I thought from start to finish that David Burke was Galway's best player. Conor Whelan had a good game and Jason Flynn was decent too in the first half.

Joe had a good first half, David Collins showed up well when he came on and Padraig Mannion redeemed himself, considering his semi-final experience at the hands of Seamus Callanan.

If you'd told the Galway public that they would only concede one goal in the game, they would have taken that. The problem was that Eoin Murphy was never troubled at the other end, and Kilkenny had the better overall spread of scorers.

Their half-back line really thundered into the game in that second half and it was also interesting to note the influence of Tyrrell, even though he didn't play.

Colin Fennelly mentioned after the game that Jackie delivered an inspirational speech at half-time.

Eoin Larkin also spoke about how it doesn't matter who scores, it's all about the result and Kilkenny winning trophies and medals.

These guys are hellbent on leaving a legacy that will endure forever and as long as Cody patrols the touchline, there will be more glory to come.

This year has really highlighted how important he is to the set-up.

It's similar to what Alex Ferguson achieved during his time at Manchester United.

You'd perhaps fear for them when Cody steps down but I don't see any reason why he would.

He's managed to deliver an 11th All-Ireland title as manager and Kilkenny have another Hurler of the Year in waiting in the form of TJ Reid.

He's nailed-on for that individual accolade.

The big question for Galway is where they go from here?

They will look back and reflect on the year with some satisfaction, I suspect.

Ok, they didn't win a trophy but if you'd told the Galway players after they were beaten by Waterford in the League quarter-final that they'd contest an All-Ireland decider, they'd have taken that.

Great credit is due to their county board also for sticking with Anthony Cunningham as manager.

Over the years, there's been so much chopping and changing in Galway but now they must hold onto him.

All is not lost for Galway as their day began on a high with victory in the All-Ireland minor final.

But the big one continues to elude them and they were fortunate not to finish the game with 14 players.

Johnny Coen's challenge on Colin Fennelly was a red-card offence but James Owens opted for yellow.

I can understand why he did and it was a decision based on common sense.

The incident occurred in a tight, tense first half and Owens weighed up his options before making the call, in a game he handled well.

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